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September 4, 2007

7 questions about the campaign

On the front page of Saturday's Washington Post, in a "Campaign Memo" addressed "To: The Voters" about "The Seven Things You Need to Know about the 2008 Race," Dan Balz addressed the following questions:

1. Is the Clinton campaign a true juggernaut -- or is that just what she wants everyone to believe?
2. Is there a Republican front-runner?
3. Is anyone on either side positioned to break into the top tier?
4. Does the new, turbo-charged calendar make Iowa and New Hampshire more important -- or less?
5. Is it too late for Al Gore or Newt Gingrich to get into the race?
6. Do ideas matter in this election?
7. When do I really need to start paying attention, and should I trust the polls?

These are questions for spectators who are considering following the 2008 campaign as they might follow the NFL season--as a contest among professional teams. The big underlying question is: Who's going to win? But what if you follow the campaign as a citizen concerned about the country and the world? Then your questions would be quite different:

1. What are our problems as a country?
2. What are some leading diagnoses and interpretations of these problems?
3. What should we do about our problems?
4. What role do I have?
5. What role does the next president of the United States have?
6. What are the candidates saying about how they would play their roles if elected?
7. What does other evidence (such as the candidates' records, behavior on the campaign trail, choice of advisers, and core constituencies) tell us about how they would play their roles?

Perhaps Dan Balz would say that he cannot address my questions without editorializing. But he can hardly claim that he merely provides "the facts," since his memo is full of declarative judgments about the horse race. (In his magisterial opinion, it is too late for Gore and Gingrich. No candidate has proposed any significant big ideas yet. Etc.) Besides, I'm not asking the Post to tell us what our problems are and how to solve them. I'm asking them to give us the factual basis to help us make up our own minds--along with a sampling of interesting views quoted from a variety of experts and activists.

September 4, 2007 8:29 AM | category: press criticism | Comments


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